One of my favorite movies is now a classic “2001: A Space Odyssey” directed by the great Stanley Kubrick. Aside from a truly visual feast that it is, the movie treats the audience to a most fascinating examination of the ephemeral nature of life. Considering how eons long it took for the solar system to materialize, and then how long after that it took for earth’s carbon to yield the first colony of protozoa, and then for evolution to yield intelligence, it is indeed less than a second ago that man inhabited the earth. We have just come down from the trees.
Now earth’s perfect animal (man) has discovered how to control evolution itself. Evolution is no longer a phenomenon of mostly chance: the slow process of evolution guided only by a simple but ruthless rule, the survival of the fittest, and time measured in millions of years, is no more. Man now has the capability to chart the course of humankind. We can recreate ourselves to become super human beings, or with just the same amount of ability and probability, destroy ourselves.
This is my second blog on this topic, and the question still is: “Which way will we go? The way to a life we can only imagine and wonder, or the way to extinction?” Our path is fraught with danger, but by nature we are optimistic. And so we move forward, aware of the dangers, but always moving forward — at a faster and faster pace.
Less than a decade ago somebody invented the phrase “knowledge workers”. He predicted that, on average, people’s salaries will be in direct proportion to the number of years spent in school or self-study. Now that has come to pass, not only in economically advanced countries, but in previously poor countries as well. Today millions of knowledge workers in India and China benefit from the high demand for knowledge workers worldwide.
But progress measured in millions of years now happen every month, even every day. Technology is changing our lives, not just in a linear, upward trend, but exponentially. The only prediction we can make is the exponential nature of the change from here on. It will be a wonderful life, if only we don’t destroy ourselves.
I want to introduce a new phrase: “Ideas Per Minute”.
Every minute, there must be millions of people around the world who come up with bright ideas. Whereas the output of knowledge workers are best harnessed for society by businesses organized for profit, the output of millions of people with a million ideas are best harnessed by 1) making such ideas known to all, and in order to incentivize such spread of knowledge, 2) protecting the most profitable ideas by a system of patents. Not too long from now, I think “Ideas Per Minute” will be a significant economic measure. In addition to GDP, I think Ideas Per Minute (IPM) can add to the insight into how a country is more advanced than another. Studies will be made on how a country’s measure of freedom affects IPM.
For-profit companies organized for the sole purpose of accumulating ideas (patents) are now in existence. Not surprisingly, the country with one of the highest IPM, the U.S.A., is leading in this kind of business. It was not too long ago that Nathan Mhyrvold (a former Microsoft technology leader) formed a company called Intellectual Ventures with the objective of accumulating ideas for profit. Now an offshoot has sprouted in California: Rational Patents. There will be more, and it won’t be long until this trickle becomes a raging river. If you have bright ideas, I urge you to take a look at these two companies. It can put your own life on an exponential trajectory.